Arresting Cengiz Çandar

Arresting Cengiz Çandar

Columnist Ali Bayramoğlu, in his column in the daily Yeni Şafak, brought up a hurtful topic by unveiling a “conspiracy” against a group of intellectuals including Cengiz Çandar. What was this conspiracy? It was extending the arrests and starting a witch-hunt for intellectuals who are focused on the Kurdish issue, which created an order of fear by making the authoritarian mentality the dominant one in the search for a solution to the Kurdish issue. If we go deeper, it was an interference with Turkey’s political structure by means of the justice system and the police.

We are not facing a new “method” or a “strategy.” The reflex of reproducing a fear-based government by viewing the Kurdish issue merely in the context of a “terrorism issue” could be deemed almost the most deeply rooted “domestic reflex of the state” in this country.

This authoritarian tendency when addressing the Kurdish issue, which began to come to prominence during the election campaign and continued to grow afterward, triggered the police and the justice system to act in a new way. For reasons that are hardly valid in a state of law, academics such as Büşra Ersanlı and publishers like Ragıp Zarakolu were arrested.

Lists broadcast on TV channels
Obviously, certain circles were not satisfied with this. A significant portion of those academics and writers who produce ideas and who focus on the Kurdish issue were included on the “list.” A string of arrests that seemed to have no brakes began. At the time when the arrests were especially widespread, some TV channels and newspapers publicized certain intellectuals as targets almost as if there were a campaign to do so. They broadcasted and published those documents provided by the police, highlighting those names known to the public.

Now it has become clearer that Cengiz Çandar is one of the targets of this campaign. Ali Bayramoğlu has revealed that he has learned that some academics were also included on the list and that they were also made targets. Again as new information we have learned that the detention and arrests of these academics were only prevented by certain political interventions.

The Kurdish issue continues to be the key issue of democracy in Turkey. At this stage, we can say that the stances of the new holders of political power and their predecessors are becoming more and more alike. We see that certain circles who call themselves democrats and say they defend multiple political voices in society still perceive the Kurdish issue as restricted to the framework of the “fight with terrorism.”

Problems with the authoritarian mentality
We may have differences of opinion on the Kurdish issue. We may be engaged in a debate about methods for solving it. In such critical debates, some intellectuals may come forward with contradictory attitudes. The preferences and evaluations of various intellectuals and academics may be argued with, criticized or questioned.

It is a completely different thing, though, to try to arrest those intellectuals who focus on the subject, exerting effort and labor, by resuscitating the old frame of mind, with its logic that says “These are the fathers of terror,” “They are the head of the snake,” and “They should be cleansed first.”

Indeed, if viewed from a different point of view, we can consider that the Kurdish issue functions as an excuse, performing a symbolic function, and that the real issue is hidden behind the “monist” frame of mind that still continues to dominate political mentalities.

The desire to control everything, to rule all fields, and to set up a wholesale hegemony, is implanted in the DNA of the configuration of the state in this country. The monist mentality makes a comeback each and every time.

It is not easy for the frame of mind of a country to undergo a serious change, especially a country that has experienced a number of coups, and one that has been molded with pain. Almost any step taken toward change results in a power struggle that puts democracy and the rule of law at risk.

As a result we are able to say this: The mentality that was targeting Cengiz Çandar at the time of the Feb. 28 coup is being reproduced 15 years later by those that see themselves as victims of Feb. 28. As a twist of ill fate, Cengiz Çandar is again the target.


Oral Çalışlar is a columnist for daily Radikal, in which this piece was published on May 25. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.